‘Is not this the carpenter’s son?’ (Mt 13:55). Jesus started life in a carpenter’s workshop – and he has never left it. He is continually ‘making things’ and, as with Jeremiah’s potter, they often ‘come out wrong … and he has to rework it’ (Jer 18:4).

We quickly forget the terrible headlines telling us of things ‘coming out wrong’, but he never does. The Ukraine war may fade from our consciousness but not from his. Two years on, there are soldiers stuck in dug out
defences trying to hold up the Russian advance. They are tired but they keep at it. Russia’s freedom and Ukraine independence in 1990 ‘came out wrong.’ Now they have to be reworked. Zimbabwe became independent ten years earlier but now we know that something has ‘come out wrong and has to be reworked’. We are not pieces of
wood nor are we potter’s clay, but we are being moulded, fashioned, hammered into shape. It is good to know that we are not alone. We don’t have to think of everything ourselves. There is One who is fashioning us, day by day. We are called to trust that. I was in South Africa recently and I was amazed to discover Ascension Day was, until recently, a national holiday. In the Christian view – and South African history was influenced by Calvinist Christian beliefs – the Ascension is a celebration of the final triumph of Christ. Christianity has often been used to
buttress unjust structures and South Africa was an example of this. If the Ascension was seen as celebrating the authority and power of the Lord, it could be borrowed for state reasons. So perhaps it is a good thing it has been dropped from the list of national holidays. The remembrance of the Ascension needs to be ‘reworked’. The Ascension has to be linked, iron clad, to the final words of Jesus on the cross, ‘It is completed’ (John 19:30). What he set out to do at the Jordan; all his labours, disappointments, sufferings and death, are now done. They were the work that turned out right in the end. But what a cost! Our Easter joy is based on the cross and we should never let that slip. Our joy is founded on endurance and suffering and it comes out right in the end – for Jesus, for us and for all who
follow his way. The Ascension is only a triumph if it is founded on ‘the way’. Any manipulation of that way empties it of the completion we all seek. The architects of apartheid are no more but many others have also tried to take short
cuts to what they want. Nothing works unless based on ‘the way’, the way of the cross.

Ascension Day 12 May 2024 Acts 1:1-11 Ep 1:17-23 Mk 16:15-20

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